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NFL Draft Countdown: The Top 15 Draft Busts

April 26, 2007 | by Andy Goldstein | Comments (8)
Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Browns has yet to live up to his draft billing.
Ronnie Brown isn’t a complete bust yet, but we have our doubts about his ability to be a workhorse back.

In anticipation of this Saturday’s NFL Draft, Derek Jones and I were given a task: Figure out the biggest draft busts of all time. We promptly decided that anything that happened before 1995 wasn’t that important. (Okay, that was my assessment; he’s an NFL history buff for some reason.) So to help you get psyched about your team choosing wisely, we present you with our list of the worst 15 draft picks of the last 12 years. For dramatic purposes, we will count backwards from 15. Enjoy.

15. Ronnie Brown (Miami, No. 2 overall, 2005)/Carnell Williams (Tampa Bay, No. 5 overall, 2005) — Yes, both have one 1000-yard season under their belts (although that’s not much to write home about in today’s NFL), and it is kind of early to call either a bust, but this column is about taking shots, so I’m taking shots at both Auburn backs. Neither has been able to play a full season and neither has been able to carry more than 300 times. Both have a certain amount of talent, but it seems as though their shared coddling in college hid an inability to be a workhorse back. This may scare dynasty-leaguers who own either guy, but both Brown and Williams might need to be in a committee to work effectively.

14. Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones (Tennesse, No. 6 overall, 2005) — I don’t really have to go over this, right?

13. Tommy Knight (Arizona, No. 9 overall, 1997) — I’m not sure what the Cardinals saw in Knight to take him at nine. On second thought, this is the same team that had some of the worst first round selections in league history. Knight played all of six seasons and he did nothing (three career interceptions). Remember that 1998 Cardinals playoff team? If you do, you probably remember Jake Plummer, Adrian Murrell, Aeneas Williams and Simeon Rice. Clearly, you have no recollection of Knight. I have a new rule. If you’re not on, wikipedia or, perhaps you never really played in the NFL.

12. Cedric Jones (New York Giants, No. 5 overall, 1996) — People pour criticism upon the Jets constantly for their inept drafts. However, with a few exceptions, New York City’s other team hasn’t exactly distinguished itself either over the last 12 years. After Rice — the top defensive end in the draft — went off the board at three to Arizona, the Giants decided to opt for the next best thing with Jones at five. Hmm. In researching Jones, I noticed something alarming. I’m not even really sure he actually exists. Cedric, if you read this give me a shout.

11. Top 15 picks (NFL, 2003) — What’s this? Dissing the top half of an entire round? Well, it was just slop. Okay, throw out Carson Palmer, Andre Johnson, Kevin Williams and Terrell Suggs (taken first, third, ninth, and 10th overall). They have acquitted themselves well. It’s, you know, everyone else that’s the problem. Charles Rogers, Dewayne Robertson and Johnathan Sullivan are standouts of the suckiness. I’m pretty sure half of the top 15 that season aren’t even in the league anymore. Let’s just hope and pray that 2007 is at least a tad better than 2003.

10. Akili Smith (Cincinnati, No. 3 overall, 1999) — The small hands of Smith arrive at the next spot. He entered the much ballyhooed 1999 draft as one of the elite quarterbacks of the class. Well, a funny thing happened to Smith on his way to Canton after the Bengals selected the Oregon Duck third overall after Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb. He played four seasons for Cincinnati and was the proud owner of five touchdown passes during that span. His inadequate arm strength and small hands made him easy pickings for defenses. Smith was cut by Green Bay and Tampa Bay in subsequent efforts to land on a roster. David Klinger, Ki-Jana Carter, Dan Wilkinson and Peter Warrick move over, you have company.

9. Kevin Dyson (Tennessee, No. 16 overall, 1998) — On the surface, this might appear to be an odd pick. Dyson was a mid-first rounder and played on a Titans team that made it to the Super Bowl. But a closer look reveals that five picks after Tennessee took a guy who finished his career with 18 touchdowns, the Vikings gambled on a potential headcase who finished with 17 scores…in his rookie year. I guess the Titans can take some solace in the fact that they played in the big game shortly after Dyson was added to the team, although one would have to assume Randy Moss would have been able to take that quick slant into the endzone at the end of the game in question. Ouch.

8. Joey Harrington (Detroit, No. 3 overall, 2002) — I bet Lions fans never figured on longing for the day that Wayne Fontes and Scott Mitchell wandered the turf of the Silverdome. Harrington, the third overall pick in the 2002 draft, is one of the poster children for the failed run of Lions GM Matt Millen which inexplicably continues to this day (damn, even Saddam Hussein had an opinion on this matter). While Harrington continues to get work in the NFL, it’s a damning indictment on him that the best quarterback from the class of 2002 is David Garrard.

7. Charles Rogers (Detroit, No. 2 overall, 2003) — Sure, we’ve already slammed the entire first half of the first round in 2003, but Roger deserves special mention. Ah, these were heady times for the Lions. They were grooming their quarterback of the future (as you’ve already read about in No. 8 above), and now that signal caller had the only target he’d ever need. What could go wrong? Rogers was the highest drafted wide out since MeShawn in 1996, and that went swimmingly of course. The Lions certainly wouldn’t need to draft two more wide receivers with top 10 picks for a long time and Harrington would be able to mature at a comfortable pace. Oh, wait. Oops. Never mind.

6. Lawrence Phillips (St. Louis, No. 6 overall, 1996) — It’s funny how the world works. If it wasn’t for that whole Kurt Warner/Marshall Faulk thing in 1999, this guy would be a major part of Dick Vermeil’s legacy in St. Louis (in retrospect, this Phillips interview is laughable). He was the ultimate high risk, high reward pick.

Enter the Rams, who at the time were a joke around the league. St. Louis took Phillips at six and regretted every second of it due to his bad attitude. He lasted less than two seasons with the Rams before he was let go. Overall, he played three seasons, with his final stop being in San Francisco. You may recall that it was here where his missed block on CB Aeneas Williams and it led to a concussion-inducing sack on 49er QB Steve Young during a 1999 Monday night game. Young never played again.

5. Ki-Jana Carter (Cincinnati, No. 1 overall, 1995) — Atrocious. Shameful. Disgraceful. These words sum up the typical draft of the Cincinnati Bengals during the pre-Marvin Lewis era. No pick made the Bengals shine more as a decisive failure than the selection of Carter in the ’95 NFL Draft. On Carter’s first carry of his Bengals career in a pre-season game, he tore up his anterior cruciate ligament. Game, set, match. Over 10 seasons, Carter rushed for just 1,144 yards.

4. Ryan Leaf (San Diego, No. 2 overall, 1998) — The 1998 draft will be remembered for many things like Peyton Manning, the snubbing of Randy Moss and Ryan David Leaf. The San Diego Chargers selected Leaf with the second overall pick after the Colts took Manning first. In order to have a chance at one of these two “franchise” quarterbacks, the Chargers traded two first round picks, a second rounder and Pro Bowl returner Eric Metcalf. San Diego’s return was in the red. Leaf never played a full season and his career lasted three seasons. At least that’s three more NFL campaigns than Elton John played. On the bright side, at least Leaf possessed more aggression than John, I think.

3. Sebastian “Sea Bass” Janikowski (Oakland, No. 17 overall, 2000) — I have nothing against kickers, really. They are an important part of the game and often end up being the difference between a win and a loss. That being said, any kicker who is picked in the first round of an NFL draft better also punt, be the team chef, and be the best kicker in NFL history. I don’t know if Janikowski can cook (I suppose he might make some mean pierogis, I guess), but he doesn’t punt and he’s certainly not the best kicker the league has ever witnessed. In fact, he’s not really better than an average kicker. You don’t even need to draft guys like this at all. You can find them on any MLS team in the nation. Awful pick.

2. Mike Mamula (Philadelphia, No. 7 overall, 1995) — If you’re wondering why we chose to focus on just the last 12 years as opposed to, say, just five or 10 years, it’s because of Mamula. He needed to be a part of this list. And it’s not his 0.4 sacks per game or how he pretty much only put effort into his bench presses and 40-time at the NFL Combine and the Eagles bought it. It’s how Mamula is the root cause of everything bad that has happened to Philadelphia sports. The Flyers being swept in ’97? Mamula. A bunch of idiots booing the Eagles’ selection of McNabb? Mamula. No championships since 1984? Mamula. The J.D. Drew fiasco? Again, it was Mamula. Yes, I’m a bitter fan, but I’m not joking about any of that.

1. Every Pick (Cleveland, every year) — Every team in the league has made some bad picks. Every team has made some bad first round picks. No team, however, has failed as miserably in the last eight years as the Browns have. There are the obvious ones: Couch in 1999 and Courtney Brown in 2000. We don’t need to go over their sad Browns’ careers. But there are further depths to how bad Cleveland has done in the annual draft. How about Quincy Morgan and Spergon Wynn? Why talk about those two? The next wide out taken after Morgan was Chad Johnson by the Bengals; the next QB taken after Wynn was Tom Brady by the Patriots. That pretty much epitomizes why the Browns win the dubious honour of the top spot in this countdown.

Sadly, they all made much more money than we will probably ever make. Oh well. Anyway, the draft is upcoming, so remember to head over to on Saturday. Derek and I will be live blogging all day, no matter if he has some lame BBQ to go to. It’ll be a blast.

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